New year, new approach: Make 2019 your year for pragmatic BIM

‘If something appears on more than one piece of documentation (for example, plan and elevation or section and schedule) then it should be modelled. This will improve the quality of your output and will speed up any future edits.’ Karl Thurston

If you’ve resolved to make 2019 the year that you embrace the digital revolution, but you’re unsure on where and how to best make this investment, Karl Thurston outlines some simple steps to help you get started.

While BIM continues to add value to many projects, the truth is that only a very small proportion of all projects fully embrace BIM Level 2. But that’s not to say that architects, engineers, contractors, clients and facilities teams cannot benefit from many of the principles of this approach.

However, if you’re just starting on your journey, you’ll be faced with a mountain of acronyms to decipher, standards to adhere to, documents to prepare, and processes to understand. Embracing change within any organisation is never without its challenges. With this in mind, one way to make this journey more fun and profitable is to take a pragmatic approach.

So, with rising costs and a squeeze on fees, where should you concentrate your efforts and resources in the first instance to see the best results?

Embrace 3D collaborative working

Don’t wait to land a BIM Level 2 project before you begin. Instead, by making 3D collaborative working your initial goal, your business will become more efficient. By reducing the time it takes to produce and edit information you can spend longer developing and refining your design to delight your customers and become more profitable. In addition, your work is likely to be of a higher quality and your teams will have more fun. 

The most value you will reap from making these changes is from producing 3D models which can be shared among the design team and other stakeholders, improving understanding and communication. By implementing 3D collaborative working in a thoughtful way, you’ll not only open your practice up to a host of immediate quality improvements and efficiency gains, but you’ll also be in a strong position to run a BIM Level 2 project if required in the future. So, let’s concentrate on how best to approach this.

First, use a 3D authoring tool to generate your information. If you’re still working in 2D, make 2019 the year you make the investment in 3D software. If you’re already designing in 3D, but aren’t yet sharing or importing information from clients, engineers, suppliers or contractors, take the time this year to move towards full collaboration in 3D.

Choose which elements to model carefully

If you’re just starting to design in 3D, remember, you don’t need to model every brick. Instead (if you really want to) you can calculate how many bricks you need with a simple sum. As a rule of thumb, if the element needs to be represented at 1:50 or more, you should model it. That said, if you follow the other pointers below you may find that the amount you model increases to around 1:20.

Generally, if it’s quicker to model something rather than draw it, you should model it. 

If something appears on more than one piece of documentation (for example, plan and elevation or section and schedule) then it should be modelled. This will improve the quality of your output and will speed up any future edits.

Model everything that needs to be scheduled, such as doors and windows, again to take advantage of using the computer for those calculations. 

Finally, if something is difficult to explain in plan, section or elevation, model it in 3D.

Generate better information

BIM is all about information management. The processes are in place to help deliver better quality and less ambiguous information. And by generating data directly from your 3D model, you will remove many laborious and time-consuming tasks, improve accuracy and save money.

Think about the information you already provide as part of your normal service and document it. Architects are prone to scope creep, so listing at a granular level what information you plan to provide helps to avoid this. For a BIM Level 2 process, this will feed into your TIDP, or Task Information Delivery Plan.

All information must be checked, reviewed and approved before sharing. Again, think about how you currently check your information and document it, to establish a consistent process. Information should be shared for a specific purpose and you should be clear about what that purpose is.

This checking and sharing process will need to be nailed down as part of the Common Data Environment (CDE) within BIM Level 2.

Understand the principles of sharing and collaborating in 3D

Effective collaboration requires working in 3D. It also requires a desire to work together. Not only does 3D collaboration enable you to work faster, deliver better quality outcomes and communicate better with your customers, it’s also a lot more fun.

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is a very robust and usable standard. Share IFC files between team members a few times and once you are clear on the process, you will find that sharing information in this way becomes second nature.

Use IFC for sharing and importing information. That way, you can choose the tool that suits your workflow, rather than having to use the same tool as other organisations involved in the project. Whether you are using ArchiCAD, Tekla or Revit, choose the one that’s right for your job.

Remember that IFC is proven and guaranteed to always be backwards compatible. This means that in years to come, the IFC viewer will always be able to read historical IFC files.

A word about file naming

Adopt the naming protocols within the BIM Level 2 standard and be strict about this within your team. While we may all be able to think of different or better naming conventions, if everyone sticks with the British Standards for naming and agrees to follow them from day one, then not only does it make collaboration easier, but you are immediately meeting another requirement of BIM Level 2.

Have an open attitude

Finally, and perhaps most important, have an open attitude. If you resolve to work together with a positive attitude, you will quickly reap the benefits of collaborative 3D working.

Adopting this approach will help you to improve the quality of your output, while driving efficiency, productivity and profitability for your practice.

Karl Thurston is BIM consultant at Graphisoft UK


Main image: Sasinparaksa/Dreamstime.com

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